By: Sheryl Swingley—
Muncie, Indiana—Solarize East Central Indiana, a grassroots community group, has helped more than 40 area homeowners add solar panels to their houses within the last year.
For homeowners, business owners and farmers interested in considering solar energy, Solarize ECI will sponsor an informational meeting at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Kennedy Library on McGalliard Avenue.
At the meeting, attendees can sign up for the installer who works with Solarize ECI to do a free site evaluation for various sizes of installations. Solar panels can be installed on roofs that face south, east and west.
“Interested parties also will not be under any obligation to sign a contract if they want a site evaluation,” said Carolyn Vann, who with her husband, John, has led the operations of Solarize ECI and worked with individuals and businesses to guide them through the process of installing solar.
Sheryl Swingley, a Muncie resident who installed solar on her house just before Thanksgiving in 2017 with the help of Solarize ECI, said, “One of the advantages of working with this grassroots group is that its members have already vetted installers, and when I had my 20 solar panels installed, it was a very smooth process. It took less than a day and a half. The company did excellent work.
“The electric company was great to work with, too. Its representative was responsive, and my system was online within a couple of days. I started saving money immediately.”
The cost of installing solar is decreasing, and solar energy benefits the owners in a number of ways, Carolyn Vann said.
–The price of solar panels has decreased 80 percent during the last 10 years.
–Currently there is a 30 percent federal tax credit.
–Home installations completed in 2018 qualify for 14 years of net metering from AEP/Indiana Michigan Power. Installations completed in 2019 will qualify for 13 years of net metering. Net metering permits excess generated electricity to be stored on the grid and then removed later as needed.
–Solar installations increase the value of the house or business without increasing property tax appraisals.
–Electric bills will be reduced depending on how many panels can be installed.
–Businesses are eligible for accelerated depreciation, sometimes taking less than a year, as well as other benefits.
“The biggest obstacle for people wanting to install solar is the upfront costs,” Carolyn Vann said. “The installer we work with has financing options, and, of course, homeowners can secure their own loans or use their home equity lines of credit.”
Rural or low-income individuals may qualify for United States Department of Agriculture programs that encourage solar installations.
The USDA also has programs to help owners of agricultural operations install solar.
Once solar panels are installed, homeowners can expect the average payback on investment to be eight to 10 years.
Solar companies guarantee solar panels to function at 90-95 percent for 25 years and say solar panels will continue to function for years after that, losing approximately 0.5 percent function per year.
“Another benefit of installing solar is that it one way an individual or family can help to mitigate the effects of climate change,” Carolyn Vann said.